Estimated read time 6 min read
Japan Today japan-news News

Death of last surviving Alaskan taken by Japan during WWII rekindles memories of forgotten battle

Gregory Golodoff spent most of his years on a quiet Alaska island, living an ordinary life, managing a co-op store, fishing for crab and serving as the village council president. But Golodoff’s recent death at the age of 84 has reopened a chapter of American history and stirred up memories of a long-forgotten Japanese invasion that prompted the only World War II battle on North American soil.
Golodoff was the last survivor among 41 residents imprisoned in Japan after Japanese troops captured remote Attu Island during World War II. He was 3 when the island was taken. He died Nov. 17 in Anchorage, his family said. His sister, Elizabeth “Liz” Golodoff Kudrin, the second-to-last surviving Attuan, died in February at 82. Three of their siblings died in captivity.
“The eldest generation has passed away to the other side,” said Helena Schmitz, the great-granddaughter of the last Attu chief, who died in Japan along with his son.
Attu is a desolate, mountainous slab of tundra, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) wide by 35 miles (56 kilometers) long, and sits between the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea on the volcanic Ring of Fire. It’s the most westerly island in the Aleutian chain — closer to Russia than mainland Alaska — and was one of just a few U.S. territories, along with Guam, the Philippines and the nearby island of Kiska, taken by enemy forces during the war.
The American effort to reclaim Attu in 1943 amid frigid rain, dense fog and hurricane-force winds became known as World War II’s “forgotten battle.” About 2,500 Japanese soldiers perished, many in hand-to-hand combat or by suicide; 28 survived. Roughly 550 U.S. soldiers died. Initially trained and equipped to fight in the North African desert, many suffered from frostbite and exposure due to inadequate gear.
Even after the surviving captives were freed at the close of the war, they were not allowed to return to Attu because the U.S. military decided it would be too expensive to rebuild the community. Most were sent to the island of Atka, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) away.
With the loss of their homeland, the Attuans’ language, Sakinam Tunuu, is now all but gone, spoken only by members of Schmitz’s immediate family. The distinctive basket-weaving style of the island is practiced by just three or four weavers, and not all are of Attuan descent. Schmitz runs a nonprofit named Atux Forever to revive the cultural heritage.
Much of what is known about the Alaska Natives’ time in Japan is chronicled in the book “ Attu Boy,” written by Golodoff’s older brother, Nick, with assistance from his editor, Rachel Mason, a cultural anthropologist with the National Park Service in Anchorage.
Mason knew the three siblings. Gregory and Liz had little memory of Attu or Japan, and neither liked to talk about it, she said.
Nick Golodoff, who was 6 when he was captured, had a childlike innocence about his time as a prisoner, Mason noted. The cover of his book featured a photograph of him riding on the back of a Japanese soldier, both smiling.
That experience was far from typical. Of the Attu residents interned in Japan, 22 died from malnutrition, starvation or tuberculosis. Schmitz’s great-grandfather, Mike Hodikoff, died with his son of food poisoning from eating rotten garbage while in Japanese captivity, the book noted.
Japanese soldiers landed on Attu Island on June 7, 1942, when residents were attending services at the Russian Orthodox church. Some ran for their rifles, but Hodikoff told them, “Do not shoot, maybe the Americans can save us yet,” according to the book.
Instead, the village radio operator, Charles Foster Jones, was shot and killed before he could alert authorities, becoming the only U.S. civilian killed by the invading forces in North America, according to a tribute to Jones by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The other residents — all Alaska Natives except for Jones’ wife, a white teacher from New Jersey named Etta Jones — were kept captive in their homes for three months before being told to pack up and bring what food they could for the journey to Japan.
They first went to Kiska, another Alaska island; one Attu resident died on the way. Stuffed in the cargo hold of a ship, the others embarked on a two-week voyage to Sapporo, the largest city on Japan’s Hokkaido Island, where they were kept in four rooms in an abandoned dormitory. Only Etta Jones was separated from them and taken in a different boat to an internment facility in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.
One Japanese guard complained the Attuans ate better than the Japanese, but conditions worsened when the Alaskans ran out of the food they brought.
The Golodoffs’ mother, Olean, and others were forced to work long hours in a clay mine. As their numbers dwindled, she also became the cook for the surviving POWs, though there was little to make. She was reduced to gathering orange peels off the street and cooking them on top of a heater, said George Kudrin, who married Olean’s daughter Liz in Atka after he returned from the Vietnam War.
“I fed them to my children, and only then would they stop crying for a while,” Olean once told an interviewer.
Her husband, Lawrence, and three of their seven children died in Japan. Nick Golodoff lived until 2013. Another son who survived captivity, John, died in 2009.
Kudrin said Olean didn’t speak of her experiences in Japan, and his wife, Liz, was too young to remember anything.
“She always knew that she was part of the history of World War II and she always said, ‘I am a survivor with my mama,’” he said.
American forces reclaimed Attu on May 30, 1943, after a brutal 19-day campaign. Much of the fighting was waged in dense fog amid winds of up to 120 mph (193 kph). Attu Island today is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and known more for being one of the top destinations in North America for groups dedicated to viewing birds, especially those from Asia.
Greg Golodoff’s wife of 50 years, Pauline, said he never spoke with her about his experience in Japan or about being the last living resident of Attu.
“I tried to ask him, but he didn’t want to talk about it,” she said.

© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Estimated read time 1 min read
JAPAN japan-news News The Japan Times

China ‘not fearful of war’ over Senkakus, senior military officer says

A senior Chinese military officer said in a recent interview with Kyodo News that Beijing does not want a war over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands claimed by China in the East China Sea, but it is also “not fearful” of armed conflict either.Lt. Gen. He Lei, a former vice president of the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences, also indicated the possibility that China will target the Senkakus, which it calls Diaoyu, as well if it attempts to capture Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island, through the use of force.The rare reference by a senior Chinese military officer to a possible war over the Senkaku Islands suggests Beijing’s determination to gain control of the territory that Japan brought under state control in 2012.

Estimated read time 2 min read
JAPAN japan-news News The Japan Times

Japan’s Star Flyer airline to allow pets on all domestic flights from January

Star Flyer, a Fukuoka-based airline, will allow passengers to bring their small dogs and cats on board all of its domestic flights beginning January in a bid to attract more customers, its website showed Saturday.

After the firm became the first domestic airline to provide the service in March 2022 on flights between Kitakyushu Airport in Fukuoka Prefecture and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Star Flyer has decided to expand it from Jan. 15 due to its popularity.

Passengers are permitted one pet per person, with each flight allowing up to two animals. Tickets for pets cost ¥50,000 ($350) per animal, and owners will be assigned seating next to their pet’s crate in the last row of the aircraft.

Those traveling with their pets are asked not to feed them during the flight, although water is permitted.

From 2024, pets will be allowed on flights between Haneda and Kansai Airport in Osaka Prefecture, Yamaguchi Ube Airport in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Fukuoka Airport, as well as between Chubu Airport in Aichi Prefecture and Fukuoka.

“We would like to improve customers’ satisfaction by supporting their travels with their pets,” a Star Flyer representative said, adding that there have been around 300 uses of the service on flights between Kitakyushu and Haneda so far.

Estimated read time 1 min read
Business japan-news News The Japan Times

Japanese startup develops bug-repellent clothing

A startup in central Japan has been working on developing bug-repellent fabrics and clothing, with hopes of bringing finalized products to market by the end of March next year.

The company, Fibercraze, teamed up with firms across the country to develop textiles with microscopic holes that can be injected with chemicals. The goal is to utilize the technology for a wide range of purposes, from outdoor pursuits to nursing care.

While many fabrics tend to become less durable when punctured or torn, Fibercraze has developed a product that maintains its strength by reducing the pores within the material to a width narrower than a hair.

The firm has also been working on manufacturing fabrics that maintain their texture with improved chemical efficacy.

The company’s president, Shunya Chosokabe, began researching punctured fabrics in his fourth year at Gifu University, where the technology has been studied for over 20 years.

“I thought I would be able to add value to the world by commercializing this technology,” said the 26-year-old, who founded the business in September 2021.

Chosokabe said he hopes to incorporate the “cutting-edge technology” with other products developed by high-tech manufacturers.

Estimated read time 1 min read
JAPAN japan-news News The Japan Times

CDP dithers over no-confidence motion against Kishida Cabinet

With the ongoing extraordinary session of the Diet scheduled to end on Wednesday, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is hesitating over whether to submit a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet.While there are growing calls within the CDP for a no-confidence motion in the wake of “slush fund” allegations against factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, it remains to be seen how far support for such a motion will spread in the opposition camp.The CDP will discuss the matter at an executive meeting on Monday.

Estimated read time 3 min read
Japan Today japan-news News

Hong Kong holds first ‘patriots only’ local elections

Polls opened in Hong Kong’s first “patriots only” district council election on Sunday, with officials dismissing concerns of potentially low turnout in a race that has shut out all opposition candidates after a national security crackdown.
The previous election was held at the peak of the huge, sometimes violent, democracy protests in 2019, and recorded a historic-high 71 percent turnout — delivering a landslide victory for the pro-democracy camp.
As part of the widespread clampdown on political opposition — aided by a national security law imposed in 2020 by Beijing — the city authorities overhauled the councils’ composition earlier this year.
Authorities have attempted to drum up enthusiasm for the election, covering the city with posters urging Hong Kongers to vote, but on Sunday morning, polling booths appeared empty in the wealthy Mid-Levels area.
“It must be the patriots ruling Hong Kong — this is our principle,” said a civil engineer surnamed Lee, a lone early voter, adding “the election wouldn’t be affected just because some (candidates) can’t be part of it”.
According to new rules announced in May, seats for direct election were slashed from 462 to 88, with the other 382 seats controlled by the city leader, government loyalists and rural landlords.
Candidates are required to seek nominations from three government-appointed committees, which effectively shut out all pro-democracy parties.
Over 70 percent of the directly elected candidates were committee members.
The new rules covering this election and other changes to Hong Kong’s system of governance have been described as ensuring positions of power are filled only by people considered by Beijing to be “patriots”.
City leader John Lee said that one of the main criteria for district councillors — after “passion” and “diligence” — must be “unified” thoughts.
“There should be no more political dissonance,” he said Wednesday on RTHK, the city’s official broadcaster.
But this new arrangement is “likely to produce (district councils) that are more like government echo chambers”, said scholar John Burns, an expert in Hong Kong politics and public administration.
“Authorities are trying to change the political culture of Hong Kongers… Allowing a more diverse field of candidates would undermine the government’s campaign to rid Hong Kong of such opposition,” he told AFP.
Senior officials have rejected concerns about potentially low voter participation, with Erick Tsang, the constitutional affairs minister overseeing the election, saying that “the turnout rate cannot be an indicator of the (new) system’s success”.
More than 12,000 police officers were deployed across the city to prevent disturbances in the election, according to local media.
On Tuesday, a 38-year-old man was charged for reposting a video of an overseas commentator that allegedly incited people to boycott the election.

© 2023 AFP

Estimated read time 2 min read
japan-news LIFE News The Japan Times

Politics and pageantry for Japan’s LGBTQ community in 2023

It has been a year of triumphs and setbacks, gains and losses, and an ever-so-incremental step forward for issues of gender in Japan.This country has always been a complex creature to the hundreds of thousands of queer people residing in it. As a place boasting one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world and one of the more positive public attitudes toward sexual and gender minorities, Japan offers a degree of physical safety for the LGBTQ community most of us cannot take for granted. At the same time, Japan has also made a name for itself among the G7 nations as the country with the fewest laws protecting LGBTQ minorities in the workplace, the only country not to recognize same-sex marriage, and the country with the worst track record for transgender rights and recognition.First, the setbacks. The year 2023 saw the government pass its first-ever law explicitly addressing LGBTQ discrimination, but failed to prescribe any penalties for employers, schools or government institutions breaking this law. In May, a Nagoya district court ruled the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, but a few weeks later, a Fukuoka district court decreed the ban was constitutional. This was the year that the most inhumane restrictions on transgender people’s ability to legally transition — conditions that forced them to be sterilized — was finally revoked by Japan’s Supreme Court; however, it was also the year that the Tokyo Trans March was put on indefinite hiatus amid controversies surrounding its parent organization, Transgender Japan.

Estimated read time 1 min read
Culture japan-news News The Japan Times

The opulence of Manila Luzon

Whenever it’s announced that a bona fide drag celebrity will be visiting Japan, the community here starts buzzing.“Manila Luzon? You know that she is the G.O.A.T.,” one drag devotee, using an acronym that spells out “greatest of all time,” told me three months ago when Luzon’s arrival was announced. “I am actually so shaken and excited they are bringing her to Japan.”Dec. 1 saw the third and most successful installment of Tokyo’s preeminent drag show Opulence, combining some of Japan’s best local drag talent with three of the celebrity drag queens from the hit TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race”: Luzon, Trinity the Tuck and Kylie Sonique Love. All three queens were immensely popular casting choices, but Luzon — one of drag’s first internationally recognized Filipina American celebrities and the award-winning host of the “Drag Den” television series from the Philippines — was the name that seemed to send Shinjuku Ni-chōme (Tokyo’s traditionally LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood) into a spin. And now, the G.O.A.T. herself had arrived.

Estimated read time 1 min read
japan-news LIFE News The Japan Times

Recipe: Zesty ‘yuzu’ mince pies

While shortcake and stollen tend to make an appearance in Japan during the festive season, it’s a little rarer to see mince pies on the country’s shelves.In order to make them, though, nearly every recipe you find will include “mincemeat” as an ingredient, implying that you could just buy a packet somewhere, which is certainly not the case in Japan.Of course, mince pies originally had actual minced meat in them, as opposed to the mincemeat made of chopped fruit and spices that is used today. The pies were a good way to preserve ground pork or mutton, which was used alongside spices, raisins, orange peel and other fruit. So it makes sense that modern recipes require you to age your homemade mincemeat over at least several days.

Estimated read time 2 min read
Japan Today japan-news News

Sri Lanka experiences temporary power outage after a main transmission line fails

Sri Lanka experienced an island-wide power outage for several hours Saturday after a system failure in one of the main transmission lines, the country’s power and energy ministry said.
The power outage began Saturday evening and continued for several hours.
“Step by step restorations are underway and it may take few hours to completely restore the power supply,” said the ministry in a statement.
Sri Lanka largely depends on hydro power for power generation, while coal and oil are used to cover the balance. During the dry season, the country is compelled to use more thermal power for generation of electricity.
Sri Lanka experienced several hours of daily power cuts last year for several months due to plunging water levels powering hydroelectric dams. The power crisis worsened as Sri Lanka faced difficulty in importing sufficient stocks of oil and coal after the country’s foreign reserves were depleted during an unprecedented economic crisis.
Sri Lanka plunged into am economic crisis in 2022, creating severe shortages and drawing strident protests that led to the ouster of then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. It declared bankruptcy in April 2022 with more than $83 billion in debt — more than half of it to foreign creditors.
Under new President Ranil Wickremesinghe, a continuous power supply has been restored. But there has been growing public dissatisfaction with the government’s efforts to increase revenue by raising electricity rates and imposing heavy new income taxes on professionals and businesses.
Sri Lanka has sought the support of the International Monetary Fund to rescue the economy.
The IMF agreed in March to a $2.9 billion bailout package, releasing the first payment shortly thereafter. However, the IMF delayed the second tranche, citing inadequate oversight and debt restructuring.
An IMF review in September said Sri Lanka’s economy was recovering but the country needed to improve its tax administration, eliminate exemptions and crack down on tax evasion.
Sri Lankan government officials have expressed confidence over the last two weeks that the IMF would provide the $334 million installment before the end of the year since the island nation received required financial assurances from its bilateral creditors, including China, Japan and India.

© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.